Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Haunting

I should be writing this deep in the middle of a dark and stormy October night instead of high noon on a lovely July day, but ghosts apparently choose their own time and place.

The story begins innocently enough. I went to a summer luncheon meeting with one of my writers' groups. Over chicken salad and iced tea, one of the original members of the group reminisced about her early writing career in New York where she worked at Mademoiselle magazine with Sylvia Plath. She remembered Sylvia as someone amusing who liked parties and wore the bright red lipstick so fashionable at that time. The conversation evolved to discussion of Plath's work. I kept quiet, certain I was the only person in the room who had not read her poetry or The Bell Jar.

Easily influenced by the mood of what I read, depressing novels and poetry aren't good for me. Back in high school, I discovered Thomas Hardy, and while I loved his prose, his stories sent me into such black swamps of depression, I vowed to avoid further relentlessly bitter literary journeys.
Still, after that summer lunch surrounded by lovely people who hadn't put their heads into ovens after reading Plath, I thought perhaps I should read her work.

This is where things get weird.

This past June, my husband retired from thirty-two years as a high school English teacher. Among his summer tasks was the clearing out of materials he would no longer need. On the very day of the  luncheon with my writer friends, he sorted through several boxes of stuff, hanging on to a few items he thought I might like. I came home that afternoon to find The Bell Jar and The Collected Poems of Sylvia Plath on my desk. Coincidence?
Okay, then what about two days later when I am looking for an exercise on metaphors for another writing group, and the first example I find is a Sylvia Plath poem. Coincidence?
"Perhaps," says the phantasmal voice of Rod Serling.

I finished reading The Bell Jar last week, with no particular ill effects, though I don't seem to sleep well lately. The copy I read (see the photo above) looks as if its been to hell and back. Perhaps it is indeed a gift from a ghost.